Proper saddle fit leads to a balanced, safe ride for you, and it lets your horse work comfortably. If your horse pins his ears, flings his head, and wrings his tail while you’re on his back, or if he tries to bite you or the saddle while you’re tacking up, it’s extremely likely that the saddle you’re using fits poorly and causes pain. This is dangerous – and probably uncomfortable – for you, and it can permanently damage your horse’s back. Lastly, there’s no way a horse wearing an ill-fitting saddle is able to do his best on the trail or in the show ring. Look for these six signs that your saddle doesn’t fit your horse properly. If it seems like the saddle is a good fit, consult your vet as a health problem could be at the core of his behavior.
After a moderately strenuous ride, your horse’s back should be damp on both sides of the spine. Dry spots (other than the area along the spine itself) are a clear indicator of poor fit. These show that there’s excessive pressure, either on the sweaty areas or on the dry spots themselves. Too much compression can prevent your horse’s sweat glands from functioning properly, and it causes serious pain.
When too much pressure is placed on the same spot time and time again, the pressure stops blood from flowing, causes the hair in that spot to turn white, and kills the sweat glands in the area.
Just as your ankles will swell if you wear socks that are much too tight, your horse’s back may swell if the saddle is putting too much pressure on certain areas. The swelling is caused by restricted blood flow and over time, it could be accompanied by hard spots or muscle atrophy in the areas where the saddle is pinching.
While saddle sores can be caused by dirty tack, a dirty horse, or poor balance on the part of the rider, they can also be caused by friction or pressure caused by a saddle that’s too tight, or certain parts of tack that are poorly adjusted or overly tight. Saddle sores are much like the blisters you can get when you’re wearing shoes that don’t fit properly.
Lumps and Bumps
Sometimes horses develop round, swollen patches about an inch in diameter, which will appear within 15 to 20 minutes of unsaddling and disappear because of reabsorption within about 12 hours. These lumps are not usually painful, but they are indicative of poor saddle fit. Firmer bumps that don’t absorb quickly can also show up, usually along both sides of the spine. These may be slightly uncomfortable. Over time, as poor saddle fit continues, these bumps can become open sores that are extremely painful and are prone to infection. Address issues with bad saddle fit immediately if you see either type of lumps developing.
If you run your hand along your horse’s back under normal circumstances, it should feel supple and your horse should either not be bothered or show signs he enjoys the massage. If his muscles tense or he tries to get away from your hand, it’s a clear sign that his back is sore, perhaps with bruising that you cannot see.
Correcting Poor Saddle Fit
Sometimes the right saddle pad can improve the way your saddle fits, resulting in an immediate improvement. Sometimes, nothing but a new saddle that fits properly will work. If you find that you need a new saddle, be sure to see our guide to taking a wither tracing, as this will help you select a saddle that fits your horse well. Second, be sure the saddle you choose is a good fit for you! Since poor balance can contribute to a sore back for your horse and pain on your part, you’ll want to ensure that you are riding comfortably.
Here at SaddleOnline, we offer a variety of different saddle sizes and designs! If you are looking for a wider saddle tree, to accommodate your wider set horses, check out our saddles with the 7” wide tree gullet. If you are interested in finding a saddle to fit your average sized horse, check out our 6.5” medium tree saddles. We have saddles for every horse! Check out SaddleOnline today and find your perfect fitting horse saddle!
Our experts are standing by to help you with any saddle fit issues you may have. Enjoy a free online chat or call us at 1-800-967-2335.